By Mary O’KEEFE
Thanksgiving was born of a time when those who had seen the worst and made it through celebrated and gave thanks to those who helped them. Local veterans of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars have taken that foundation of Thanksgiving and built upon it by helping Crescenta Valley High School alum Stephen Beck and his unit deployed in the Mideast.
“Art Napiwocki [a member of the American Legion and VFW] suggested we adopt a troop,” said Mike Baldwin, American Legion Post 288 adjutant.
This is the first time Post 288 attempted to adopt a unit, but the timing seemed perfect. Baldwin had recently been emailing Aimee Beck whose husband Stephen’s Air Force unit had been deployed several months prior.
“I had met the young man prior to his going into the service and it just seemed like a nice fit for us,” Baldwin said.
Stephen’s unit has only nine members and since Post 288 is also a small post it seemed to work out.
The initial suggestion came out of an American Legion meeting, but many members are also members of the VFW so the project became a joint venture. The veterans wanted to adopt a unit or troop and it meant even more to support someone they know.
Stephen is a 2011 Crescenta Valley High School graduate and was a member of the Falkons 589 robotics team. He joined the Air Force immediately out of high school and was only recently deployed. He, and his unit, will be overseas for the holidays.
On Wednesday, the VFW and American Legion members sent out their first gift, Amazon gift cards, to everyone in the unit.
“Aimee had said they do a lot of Kindle reading,” Baldwin said.
Baldwin spoke to Aimee a few months ago to find out when Stephen was going to be deployed.
“He was talking [about sending] him letters during the holiday season, “ Aimee said.
She appreciates what the veterans have done so far beyond sending letters to her husband and his unit.
“I am proud of my community really showing how we can rally together,” she said of their support.
She added many of those in the unit do not receive a lot of packages from home so being adopted by the American Legion and VFW is very special to them.
As to what to send, Baldwin and Aimee are working on the next gift package.
“They have a large store where they can go and buy socks and stuff … what they want are books, current DVDs or television shows,” Aimee said. “They also need blankets and scarves.”
The scarves can only be in the colors of black, green or tan.
“Their favorite thing is to receive mail,” Aimee added.
Baldwin remembered what mail call meant.
“When I was in Vietnam, I was absolutely thrilled to receive [mail and packages],” he said. “The [American] Red Cross sent packages out then. It does matter. I still have some of the [things they sent].”
Anyone who would like to help support the American Legion and VFW support the Air Force unit can do so by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or by calling the American Legion at (818) 541-1336. Checks can be made payable to the American Legion Post 288 (with Air Force unit indicated in the memo), PO Box 223, Montrose, CA 91021.